Bank Sails ‘Citizenship’ Campaign

Citizens Bank is launching an advertising campaign aimed at strengthening consumer trust in the brand.

The client is running TV, print, radio and online ads with the tagline, “Good banking is good citizenship.” Ogilvy & Mather, New York, handles, and this is the WPP shop’s first big push since it added Citizens following a review late last year.

One 30-second spot alternates between modern and historical town-hall meetings, where participants discuss the meaning of the word “citizenship.” The clip opens with a man (in the present) pointing out, “We all agree on one thing: that our country was founded on citizenship.” It then shows the nation’s founding fathers and consumers from all walks of life agreeing that banking is an extension of such values. The spot will air during this month’s season-nine finale of American Idol.

The push comes as banks try to regain trust with consumers. Financial firms like Wells Fargo and Bank of America have introduced campaigns touting their ability to help consumers with tough decisions in trying times. But the sector still suffers from a tarnished image.

Theresa McLaughlin, CMO at client parent Citizens Financial Group, said the campaign stems from research that showed 78 percent of consumers want to do business with companies that share their values. “[That number] was a key stat for us as we put this campaign together,” she said, adding that “price and convenience” were traditional drivers for the category. But now it’s about doing business with a bank that holds similar beliefs with a consumer and that’s why “we’re exposing our values and our credo to prospects and consumers,” she added.

Citizens, which spends about $20 million annually on ads, considers this to be one of its “most comprehensive” ad campaigns to date. “We have a lot of brand equity in being a good citizen by providing [great] service to our customers and being involved in our community,” McLaughlin said. “[This effort] is giving people a fresh look at who we are.”

In June, Citizens will run “station dominations” in major markets like Boston and Philadelphia. Another component includes a home-page takeover on, the city’s dominant news site. Outdoor efforts are also in the mix.

Scott Morgan, president of Brunner, a Pittsburgh-based ad agency that works with clients like the American Bankers Association, said the campaign is “a refreshing take on what banking can be — the antithesis of the corporate conglomerate where ‘greed is good.’”

But at the same time, Morgan said, Citizens is a multi-billion-dollar bank holding company, which makes one wonder if it can “really deliver that level of ‘citizenry?’”

One solution might be a social media component where consumers can “share their thoughts on what it means to be a good citizen,” Morgan said. That way, customers can decide for themselves how the bank “stacks up.” Otherwise, Citizens runs the risk of “being construed as another big bank trying to look small and community-focused,” he said.

Publish date: May 12, 2010 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT